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Circles of Central Kansas fights poverty
People get a first hand look at poverty
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People role play low-income families during the Poverty Paradigm Experience, Thursday at the Heartland Community Church in Great Bend. Participants had the opportunity to gain an understanding of what it is like for a person living in poverty in Barton County.

Circles of Central Kansas hosted its first community event, “Poverty Paradigm Experience,” on Thursday at the Heartland Community Church in Great Bend. The program was designed to help raise the understanding of what obstacles people who are experiencing poverty in Barton County face every day.
“This event is very important to not just the people who are participating in the event, but the entire community,” Health Department Director Shelly Schneider said. “We have to raise awareness about the poverty we have in Barton County and that starts with building relationships with the people who are experiencing it and the goal of this event to do exactly that.”
The Poverty Paradigm Experience is presented as a game where groups role play low-income families, with individuals taking roles of adults or children. They must make it through the maze of housing, utilities, food and transportation, as well as school, mental health and social services.
“This event is a role identity switch for people,” Schneider said. People were given an envelope that contained their life events and they had to navigate systems that they might never have had to deal with in their own lives. The experience was meant to “give them the understanding of what some people go through on a daily basis that live in poverty.”
According to Schneider, each participant role-played a person experiencing survival mode for one month, simulated in four 15-minute weeks.
The result was new understanding of why families on the lower economic scale do the things they do. The event is designed to empower communities to find new ways to reach families living in poverty.
The simulation is built to be taken into communities to initiate the paradigm shifts necessary to activate great generational change.
“The takeaway from this event is to understand that people who live in poverty are living crisis to crisis everyday and this is really hard to break,” Schneider said. “So we are hoping for some understanding, different perspectives, and a heart and mind shift change in the community. That is our goal. We want people to understand what it is like living in poverty and try to find a way to end it here in Barton County.”
This event was hosted by First United Methodist Church of Great Bend, Youth Core Ministries, Barton County Health Department and Central Kansas Community Corrections.